The Supply Chain industry has been changing quickly and dramatically in recent years. Fresh perspectives and innovative solutions are a must as we move forward in this new environment. Great leaders, in business and in life, learn from past experiences, absorb wisdom from other respected leaders, and aren’t afraid to think outside the box. WSI is in a uniquely privileged position. New leaders are making an impact at the organization while still benefiting from the wisdom and guidance of seasoned industry experts loyal to the company’s mission.
In this interview, WSI’s retired VP of Operations, Bill Lindeke, shares his insights on leadership, continuous improvement, and what it’s like working for one of the nation’s largest 3PLs. Bill retired earlier in 2021 after a careful transition with emerging leaders, Jesse Jones and Peter Davis.
Q: NOW THAT YOU’RE RETIRED AND CLOSING THAT CHAPTER IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL BOOK, WHAT’S THE SYNOPSIS? WHAT HAS YOUR CAREER BEEN LIKE?
“I got my BS in Business Economics from UW Eau-Claire, then continued on to get my MS in Production Management from UW-Madison. I started my career at Kimberly-Clark in mid ‘84, and they started their supply chain folks in mill positions, mostly doing production planning. I worked at Kimberly-Clark for 27 years in a variety of roles.
I decided I wanted to make a company change back around 2011. I had worked with the WSI folks as they managed Kimberly-Clark’s DC in Jenks, Oklahoma. I joined WSI in 2011 as the VP of Sales, did that for a few years, then transitioned into the VP of Operations.
I retired about a month ago and I’m going to stay on part-time to work on projects.”
Q: WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO WORK FOR WSI?
“I wanted to work for WSI because I liked the way WSI treated their people. It’s important to work for a company where you enjoy your work AND the people you do it with.”
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM WORKING FOR WSI?
“First, I’m very proud of the evolution of the safety culture. I think we’ve moved from having a very good safety mindset to now having outstanding results commensurate with our culture. Our number of incidents and our severity rates are significantly below industry averages; we’ve accomplished this by encouraging our teams to report everything, even if it seems insignificant, and then acting to remedy the issue.
I am also very proud of our improved financial reporting system. When I first got here, WSI had a very robust financial reporting system, but we did not have a system that spoke to the sites and asked, ‘How are the sites doing?’ Now, we’ve got significant reporting capabilities that will break down revenue and expenses by site and by customer. This allows us to act on improving our quality and customer service, as well as handle changes in scope with customers.
Finally, I’m excited about making WSI a desirable place to work for younger generations. We want to be able to provide more than a wage; we’d like to provide a career, not just a job. We’ve got to walk the talk about people being our most important asset, and I think we do a good job of that.”